Created in 1982 and celebrated in the last week of September, Banned Books Week aims to bring awareness to international artistic censorship and celebrate freedom of expression.
Local independent bookstore — Inkwood Books, located on Armenia Avenue — will kick off the celebration with the Banned Books Speakeasy and Open-Mic Night on Sept., 25 from 7 to 9 p.m. In keeping with the night’s speakeasy theme, inspired by the prohibition of books, Czar mixologist, Kamran Mir, will serve cocktail creations. Guests will have the opportunity to read passages from their favorite banned books.
The book club meeting will focus specifically on Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. About a 9-year-old boy’s life in the aftermath of his father’s death in the World Trade Centers on Sept. 11, the book was banned by censors in 2012 for sex, profanity and descriptions of violence.
Lindsay Pingel , a bookkeeper at Inkwood Books, said instead of choosing a widely-read classic for the event, the store wanted to choose a contemporary novel that would speak to a wide audience.
With social media’s growing omnipresence in contemporary culture, many people do a good chunk of their daily reading while scrolling through their Facebook and Twitter feeds. According to Pingel, this makes Banned Books Week all the more relevant.
“In a time where more people my age can tell you the name of Kim Kardashian's baby than the name of our Secretary of State, poignant and provocative fiction/nonfiction writing is more important than ever,” Pingel said.
Historically, novels that provoke thought by challenging political institutions, exploring sexuality and refuting social hierarchies have been magnets for censorship. According to Pingel, books like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Invisible Man, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and The Jungle incited action and motivated people to reevaluate their place in society.
“[These books] made people angry, sad, and—most importantly—they made people take action,” Pingel said. “Without these types of books, stories, essays and articles, triviality will continue to plague society.”
Pingel said that Banned Books Week protects the freedom to read. It aims to celebrate the pieces of literature that dare readers to think—to feel.
“Ignorance is not bliss — it's simply ignorance. And banning books only promotes a collective unawareness,” Pingel said. “Reading is about education and opening your mind to new ideas—the good and the bad.”